Posted by Neil Bennett 12 December 2014
Best tech Christmas gifts: 5 things we'd be unlikely to buy but would love to be given as a present
Christmas is almost upon us, so I thought it would be fun to ask the TechAdvisor team what from all the amazing tech they’ve seen this year that they like to find under the tree with their name on it.
It’s also a chance to reflect on the best things we saw in 2014 without having to think about the practical considerations that always creep in when you’re reviewing a products for you our readers. Y’know, like how much it costs, or how you probably already own another product that’s does most of what this does , so do you really need it – or how it produces only average-quality sound despite it being a speaker shaped like a big shiny skull.
We don’t care for those considerations with gifts. We just want to be pleased. And this is what we want.
Microsoft Surface Pro 3 (chosen by me)
I already have a 15-inch MacBook Pro that’s hugely powerful and thin and light and delightful. I definitely don’t need a tablet-cum-laptop with a smaller screen and lower performance.
But I want one.
I’ve been testing Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3 for a week or so now to write a review for our Digital Arts site and I’m a little obsessed. It’s so much lighter and easier to travel with than the Macbook Pro – and it’s capable of doing the vast majority of things I do on the MacBook Pro while travelling, including editing photos in Photoshop and video in Premiere Pro.
Taking the MacBook with me requires at least a satchel – such as this beautiful one by Proporta – or a full-size rucksack if you want to take the power adapter too. The Surface and adapter – which is nearer to a camera charger than laptop one – easily slip into a shoulder bag.
Yes, the MacBook Pro is much more powerful, with twice as many cores in the processor and a proper graphics chip – but I can use the Surface Pro on a tray table on the train. Yes, multi-layer comps and effects work can drag on the Surface, but then the MBP can feel slow for intensive work compared to the workstation on my desk. Yes the MBP has a big, beautiful screen, a keyboard you can type really fast on and a proper-sized trackpad – but the Surface’s 12-inch screen is equally gorgeous, and using the touchscreen with my fingers and the pen is a much easier way to work than a trackpad anyway.
And yes, Mac OS X is so much easier to use than Windows 8.1 - but once I’m in Premiere Pro, Photoshop, Evernote, Tweetdeck, Firefox or whatever, I’m not really aware of the OS. I’m kinda busy writing, editing or making things.
Sony PlayStation 4 20th Anniversary Edition (chosen by Chris Martin)
It might make you feel a bit old, but it's the 20th anniversary of the PlayStation and to mark the momentous occasion, Sony has made a special limited edition of the PS4.
I've never actually owned a PlayStation before (partly because my older brother had the first two generations and partly because I've always preferred Nintendo consoles) but I really want this new edition. The console itself is no different internally but
Sony has styled this PS4 in the same iconic grey of the original with PlayStation symbols and the coloured logo giving it a retro look.
Not only is the anniversary edition the classic grey, Sony is individually numbering them and limiting the amount available to 12,300 to mimic the original 3 December launch of the PSOne. I think it's about time I got my first PlayStation – getting one might be tricky though.
Fender Deluxe Stratocaster HSS Plus Top with iOS connectivity (Chosen by Martyn Casserly)
There have been several products this year that have inflamed my ardour - the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 and Apple iPad Air 2 being particular highlights - but the one that had my undivided attention was this Fender Strat with a built-in port that connects it directly to your iPhone or iPad.
Born in 1954, the Fender Strat has been the instrument of choice for the likes of Buddy Guy, Hendrix, Clapton, Blackmore, the Edge, Iron Maiden, The Strokes, The Arctic Monkeys, John Mayer, and pretty much anyone who has ever recorded an album on an electric guitar. It’s a modern icon, and this newly released version now takes it into the realms of electronics.
Coming equipped with a standard jack for normal amps, the addition of an iOS connection means you can plug this directly into an iPad, fire up Garageband, and start recording in seconds. Its the perfect solution for getting down song and riff ideas before they escape. Plus, its a great excuse to buy another strat...as if you really need an excuse.
Apple iPhone 6 (chosen by Ashleigh Allsopp)
If I were buying a new smartphone for myself, I probably wouldn't choose the iPhone 6 because of its price. I'd choose the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact, perhaps, because it's much better value for money. However, if money were no object (or if someone said they'd buy me any piece of tech I wanted) I'd choose the iPhone 6.
It's a stunning piece of kit, both in terms of looks and power, and that 4.7in screen is the perfect size for me. I'm not so keen on the 5.5in iPhone 6 Plus or similar sized smartphones from rivals like Google, Samsung, LG and HTC, but 4.7in is just small enough to feel comfortable to use but big enough to make the content I'm consuming look awesome.
Plus, I'm already an iOS user as well as a Mac lover, so having an iPhone 6 would be ideal for services such as iCloud and would mean I wouldn't need to repurchase all of my apps on Google Play or Windows.
So Santa, if you're listening, an iPhone 6 would be wonderful, thanks. In Silver if possible, by the way.
Nest (chosen by Jim Martin)
2014 was the year when smart heating systems became mainstream, with energy suppliers jumping on board and offering discounted or even free smart thermostats. Matt explains why here.
Smart thermostats are great for two reasons: they save you money and let you control your heating from your phone. Not all systems are created equal of course, and having seen just about all of them, I can't help but favour Nest.
It may not support different zones in the way HeatGenius and other systems do, and it still relies on a schedule unlike Tado which just heats your home when you're there, but it's the thermostat I'm most reluctant to uninstall.
The display is a thing of beauty and, lest we forget, a display. Many systems rely on your smartphone, tablet or a website to control your heating. That's fine if everyone in your home has a compatible device, but when it comes to guests, there's no substitute for an easy-to-use dial on the wall.
Plus, Nest is more than a thermostat. You can buy one or more Protect smoke and carbon monoxide detectors which replace your 'dumb' smoke alarms and can warn you on your phone if either is detected, acting as an early warning system.
So, it's cool, money-saving and might even save a life. Not many tech products manage all three.